February 4, 2016
On Tuesday, 2 February 2016 a fire broke out at Matrix Sweaters Limited (MSL), a factory producing for Accord signatory companies. The Accord sent an engineering team the same day to assess the situation and undertake a preliminary investigation. The Accord is yet to confirm the cause of the fire.
The fire started at around 7:00 AM on the 7th floor of the building and was under control by mid- afternoon. A limited number of workers were present in the building as the morning work shift had yet to start. Accord has learned that 10-15 MSL employees were injured during their attempts to fight the fire. The injured reportedly received first aid treatment from the factory clinic for smoke exposure. Several received additional treatment at a nearby medical facility. The information obtained by the Accord indicates none of the injured required hospitalization.
Initial inspections for fire, electrical and structural safety were conducted at MSL by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in May 2014 (Matrix Sweaters Ltd. also produces for Alliance signatory companies). The Accord conducted a follow-up inspection to monitor and verify remediation in October 2015. At that time, approximately 35% of the total required safety remediation had been corrected. Completed remediation items included corrections to electrical distribution boards and progress on required electrical grounding. Fire doors had been delivered but not yet installed. The Accord case handler assigned to MSL had contact with the factory management on 30 January 2016 and received commitments that the factory would provide an update to the Accord within a few days on additional remediation items that had been corrected since October 2015.
During the Accord engineers’ dispatch to MSL on the day of the fire (2 February 2016), they observed that in 4 of 5 staircases fire doors were installed. This represents fire safety progress and would contribute to safe exiting of occupants. However, the fire door installation was incomplete and in some stairwells collapsible, lockable gates were not yet removed. The factory was behind schedule on a number of other fundamental life safety items. There has been slow progress in designing and installing the required sprinkler system. The sprinkler system is not yet installed. The automatic fire alarm system design was submitted for review in November 2015 and is not yet installed. Identified electrical hotspots are yet to be completely corrected.
The fire at MSL highlights the importance of completing all required corrective actions from inspections.
The Accord’s thoughts are with the injured employees. We hope for their full recoveries and for no complications from their exposure. The Accord strongly advocates that the only priority of all workers and occupants is the immediate and orderly exit from the building upon being alerted of a fire. Employees and workers should not be fighting fires. Fires should only be fought by professional firefighters with proper firefighting apparatus.
The Accord will continue to monitor the situation at the factory and continue its work to make RMG factories in Bangladesh safe.
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